Enzor: Not inclined to join suit

Published 6:14 pm Thursday, August 7, 2008

Special Judge Lee Enzor said he has not been contacted by anyone involved in the Covington County Commission’s civil lawsuit against Probate Judge Sherrie Phillips and is not inclined to join the case.

On Tuesday, Escambia County Circuit Judge Bert Rice told the parties currently involved in the lawsuit that he feels Enzor needs to be a party to the suit, in which the county asked the courts to determine whether the probate judge must abide by the county’s personnel policy.

Enzor was appointed to fulfill the duties of probate judge of Covington County after Phillips was indicted in June on felony ethics and theft charges totaling more than $1.8 million.

The civil suit was filed in June 2007 and relates to Phillips’s firing of chief clerk Patricia Gunter in March 2007. Phillips claimed that Gunter was insubordinate when she delivered a certified letter ordering the garnishment of Judge Phillips’ wages to the county’s personnel office without Phillips’ knowledge.

Gunter appealed her termination to the county personnel board, which said she should be reinstated. The county commission later upheld the board’s decision, but Phillips refused to comply.

Enzor said Wednesday that all he knew about the judge’s wish that he join the case he read in The Andalusia Star-News, but also questioned who would pay his attorney’s fees if he joined. As special judge, Enzor is paid $100 per day by the state treasurer and may continue his law practice. In contrast, Covington County’s probate judge earns $78,798 a year plus benefits, according to county personnel records. In addition, the judge receives 5 cents per name for preparing the voters list for all elections except the presidential primary. For the most recent election, she received $2,061.50. She will continue to be paid until her current term of office expires, unless she pleads or is found guilty of the charges and officially removed from the bench.

Enzor said the hearing Judge Rice has scheduled to settle the case on Sept. 11-12 would not leave him much time to hire an attorney and prepare for the case.

Rice on Tuesday expressed concern that, if he ruled the former chief clerk should be reinstated, he could not compel Enzor to make that official if he were not a party to the suit.